After sitting through a string of Marvel films that I didn’t really care for, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a welcome change. This is the first film that isn’t a sequel to be released by the company in quite a few years, and it brought back memories of Marvel at its glorious best. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is funny and charming, and also manages to have some very entertaining action sequences, with characters that are immediately likeable and endearing, allowing you to take the movie seriously despite its light-heartedness. The comedic tone of the film feels intentional, almost like a comedy with an added adventure element, rather than an action movie with a few forced jokes. This makes a massive difference when you consider other Marvel films, for example “The Avengers”, which was a superhero movie with comedy injected into it at unnatural times for no apparent reason. I felt that the comedic moments in “The Avengers” were very confusing, considering the fact that these superheroes were supposed to be saving the world from total destruction, which is a job you should take quite seriously. “Guardians of the Galaxy” on the other hand puts its comedy at the forefront, and really uses its tone to great effect, which makes me believe that the filmmakers knew what they wanted this movie to be when they started making the film.
What sets this movie apart from other Marvel films is that you don’t have to be an avid comic lover or lover of Marvel in order to enjoy it. The action set pieces and jovial nature of the film, as well as the nostalgic soundtrack and pop culture references, make this a movie for all ages; whereas other Marvel films feel as though they are catered towards a young audience or people who came into contact with the source material at a young age. Superhero films always seem to make light of the fact that the characters face certain doom around every corner, and when the films are set on Earth I find that very frustrating, because if there is a good chance that you and everyone you’ve ever loved is going to die then you really shouldn’t be wasting any time feeding your ego or making light of the situation. This movie manages to quell those kinds of thoughts because all of the characters are outcasts living in outer space. None of the Guardians have any loved ones left to speak of, they aren’t heroic in the strict sense, and they aren’t who they are because they want to save the world, so I can believe that they wouldn’t feel quite as much pressure or responsibility as other heroes. For the Guardians nothing is really out of the ordinary, there is a chance of death all the time for bounty hunters, Ravagers and daughters of tyrants, so there’s a real believability in their attitudes toward the situation.
However, “Guardians of the Galaxy” does fall victim to many of Marvel’s trademark faults. There are moments in this movie in which emotion is forced on the audience in a very annoying way, which I personally just can’t buy into when I watch these sorts of movies. I know full well that this movie is about being excited by special effects and cheering for things that go boom, so when a sentimental scene rears its ugly head I either switch off or try to overanalyse what I’m seeing. For instance, (SPOILER ALERT), the movie opens with a younger version of our leading man losing his mother to cancer whilst still on Earth. That kind of moment will resonate with a lot of people in the theatre, but not because of the performances or the dialogue happening on screen. What I noticed was the terrible child acting and the numerous clichés. Nothing that was happening was particularly groundbreaking, so there was no point in getting emotionally invested.
The film itself tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an outlaw journeying through space accompanied by his ‘Awesome Mix Tape’. Quill was abducted from Earth as a child and is now a Ravager going by the name of Star-Lord; early on he gets himself into trouble by stealing an orb wanted by the villain of this film, Ronan (Lee Pace). He meets Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and finally Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) as he attempts to sell the orb for a profit, and the movie really begins once the group are together and the actors can play off one another. The story is reasonably simple and it isn’t too hard to predict what’s going to happen next, but it works well, because it allows the audience to gain an insight into what the characters are about and what their motives are, and it also establishes the fact that we aren’t really watching superheroes (at least for the majority of the film). Four of the five main characters want to sell the orb for ‘units’, and the other wants revenge against Ronan for the murder of his family, so their motives aren’t exactly noble, the Guardians are more antiheroes than superheroes. The movie is about getting these characters to the point where the opposite is true and we can really see them as the saviours of the galaxy, so it’s fair to say that the story takes a backseat, in exchange for compelling character development.
The performances of the main cast were all very good, each actor seemed to understand their role, and the chemistry between the group seemed legitimate (albeit two characters are computer generated). Chris Pratt really won me over as Peter Quill, as I hadn’t really seen much of him prior to this film. His dancing was pretty hilarious and he seemed as though he was actually enjoying what he was doing for the majority of the movie. On the back of his excellent voice acting in “The Lego Movie” he is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. I also thought that Zoe Saldana did a great job as Gamora, she was fierce and had a presence but she was also very likeable, and that was a pleasant surprise because I usually don’t like her acting. However, at times Dave Bautista did seem slightly out of place. He does well enough considering his background and he delivers some of his lines in a way which gave me a smile and a chuckle, but his character doesn’t actually get into enough fist fights to warrant the casting and all in all it seemed slightly strange. It would be easy to blame Bautista for the fact that Drax is probably the least memorable of the Guardians, but I think that his character was slightly underused in the movie, as he doesn’t get that many meaningful moments. Hopefully in the next instalment Bautista will be given more screen time, with more to do, so that he can prove that he was right for the part.
Visually the heroes are quite impressive, and they all look very cool; Star-Lord’s mask is brilliant, Groot looks innocent but strong (just as he should look), and Rocket is a gun-wielding racoon so it’s hard to go wrong there, particularly when you consider the amount of emotion the filmmakers were able to create on his face. However, the villains are quite forgettable once you leave the theatre. Physically Ronan is imposing, and he is as evil as you’d expect from a villain in this type of film, but we never really see him doing anything all that horrible. His goals are so basic that you can’t hate him, you don’t actually care what he’s doing, he just wants power and unless you’ve never seen a film like this before you will be fully aware that he is destined to fail, I won’t even dignify that fact with a spoiler alert. He is completely lacking in depth, and the fact that we see Thanos (who is clearly more powerful and menacing than Ronan) makes Ronan’s presence in this film pretty pointless. Thanos (Josh Brolin) looms over the movie from the very moment that he appears on screen, because you know full well that he is going to appear again at some point, so when he doesn’t get much screen time you know that the filmmakers are just using this movie to set up a sequel. I understand that this movie is establishing who the Guardians are and their relationship as a group, while also trying to create a compelling world for them to live in, but I still would’ve liked a more developed villain.
There are also side-villains such as The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) which could’ve been far more interesting. The Collector basically tries to keep as many different creatures captive as he can, for reasons unknown (other than cruelty and fascination), and has a wide variety of prisoners in his home. When he appeared on screen I was quite intrigued as to what part he would have to play in the narrative, and I was hoping that he would inconvenience the Guardians by trying to imprison Groot, because he seemed very interested in him. I feel as though a story like that would’ve been a welcome break from the orb and Ronan, and would’ve allowed for a little bit more tension in the film, as well as offering further insight into Rocket and Groot’s relationship, so it was a shame that The Collector didn’t actually do anything of note. Nebula had a couple of decent moments in the film, and was a threatening villain, but she had the potential to cause a lot more damage to our heroes than she actually did, and I feel as though she was being saved for the sequel or another future film.
The soundtrack was exactly what it claimed to be… awesome. The great thing about the soundtrack for “Guardians of the Galaxy” is that it has a real part to play in the movie, and eliminates the need for an original score. The songs mean a lot to Quill because they remind him of home and his life on Earth, and you can see how much his mix tape means to him by his enjoyment as he listens to it and the fact that he is willing to put his life at risk to retrieve it. The choices of song such as ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Hooked on A Feeling’ fit the film so well and they bring a sense of joy to the movie. When ‘Cherry Bomb’ is playing there’s a montage happening on screen, in which the Guardians are preparing for their final confrontation with Ronan; the great thing about that choice of song is that it’s fast and loud, and it gives you an indication of what the battle is going to be like. Music has a way of influencing how you feel as an audience regardless of what’s happening on screen, something which “Guardians of the Galaxy” is very aware of, and uses to great effect.
The special effects were good, and when everything was still they were brilliant, but when the action sequences were happening the effects made the film slightly difficult to watch. In one particular scene the Guardians are attempting to evade Ronan’s forces in separate spaceships, all of which look very similar, and that sequence was very confusing. Everything was happening so fast that the screen became a bit of a blur, so I didn’t really know what was going on or who was being shot at. However, I don’t think that this is a massive fault on anyone’s behalf, it’s just an inevitability when you have to create a world, characters, vehicles and weapons and then blend them together in a moment which lasts just a few seconds.
As a whole I feel that the film was successful, but I do feel that there were a few questions left unanswered. The fact that Quill was abducted so soon after his mother’s death just seemed a bit odd; there was about a minute between one of the most traumatic moments of his life and his intergalactic kidnapping, which seemed a bit like kicking a child while he was down. As the film goes on we do get an understanding as to why that might have happened, but going into the film not really knowing anything about the story, I found that scene very strange and it definitely didn’t reel me in.
The film had one or two clichés, but it knows what it’s doing and each time a certain self-awareness is demonstrated by one of the characters. For example, at one point the characters stand as they decide that they will fight for one another and that they are a team, but Rocket says exactly what we are all thinking and doesn’t want to stand up. I found that quite refreshing, because Marvel films are filled with scenes that might as well have been copied and pasted into each movie. This film actually pokes fun at that issue and gives an insight into the fact that Marvel knows its problems. Not only does that make this film more appealing to me, but it also makes me hopeful that future films won’t have the same problems we’ve encountered before.
At points in this movie I found myself slightly annoyed by the fact that certain things weren’t being properly explained, and then at other moments I felt as though things were being force-fed to the audience, as if everyone was 10 years old. I never understand why a writer would make a character narrate what’s happening on screen in conversation, because we aren’t that stupid, we can see the screen and process basic information. If someone is too stupid to understand what’s going on then they can go on Wikipedia when they get home and look up the story, don’t take everyone else out of the film.
Nevertheless, it is annoying when a scene leaves you with an unanswered question, because for the next five minutes all you are doing is thinking of different possibilities for why a certain character is acting as they are. (SPOILER ALERT) – A perfect example of this was when the leader of the Nova Corps and her team were watching the destruction of their city via a hologram. There was no indication as to where they might be watching the hologram from, so we were left to assume that they too were in the city, yet they didn’t act threatened in any way. Everyone else in the city was running from debris, desperately trying to survive, and yet these individuals were comfortable enough to stand still and twiddle their thumbs, watching the show. This left me with three possibilities:
1) The place in which they were hiding was protected by some kind of force field, meaning that they were incredibly selfish not to open the doors and let the occasional citizen in.
2) The place in which they were hiding was not in the same area as the destruction.
3) They were simply lucky enough to stay safe when they were actually being very careless and really should’ve died.
None of those choices are in any way satisfactory and what they were doing just didn’t make sense! It wasn’t a massive scene and I doubt that many people in the cinema cared enough about those characters to give it a second thought, but you can’t simply ignore the problem and cut back to our heroes fighting Ronan, you have a serious issue on your hands which needs to be addressed!
(SPOILER ALERT – AGAIN) The final problem I had with the film was the scene in which Quill decided to save Gamora by putting his mask on her face (in the middle of space). I don’t have a problem with believing that he would do that, or the fact that it allowed her to breathe, but I do have a problem with his stupidity in doing it. The reason that he couldn’t just put her in his pod was that there wasn’t enough room for two people, and it was also said that the pod wasn’t designed to go as far into space as he had taken it. However… he had rocket boots. Boots which not all that long ago allowed him to fly into a spaceship in order to escape a prison. I can only assume that he didn’t use them because they too weren’t designed to go that far into space, or, he wouldn’t have been able to get back to solid ground using them, but without a clear explanation I just felt a bit let down by the scene.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” was a good movie, but it was a GREAT Marvel movie. The life has been sucked out of the superhero genre since the brilliant “Dark Knight” films, with movies like “The Amazing Spiderman 2” and “The Avengers” being churned out for profit without any soul or care, but this film has brought the genre back from the brink. It’s not without its issues, but nor is any film, and there are moments in this movie which more than make up for any negatives (particularly when Groot is trying to explain himself to the others or when Star-Lord decides it’s time to dance). “Guardians of the Galaxy” will appeal to all ages, with rich characters, a great soundtrack, good special effects and real humour, it is definitely worth seeing and deserves its success.